Before Alex Tchekmeian became founder and president of Foxtail Coffee, he spent over two decades in the music industry, focusing on arena merchandising. While traveling worldwide, he often worked out of local coffee shops and quickly became enamored with the industry.
He settled in his hometown of Winter Park, Florida, and began working on a fast-casual café concept. After the nearby auto body shop shuttered in 2016, Tchekmeian used the building as his brand’s first café and roasting facility. Foxtail, which aims for a neighborly feel, is a culmination of Tchekmeian’s global experiences.
“One of our bigger goals [in the beginning] was to focus on the development of premium coffee in terms of roasting,” Tchekmeian says. “But we also wanted to have that welcoming community café atmosphere as well.”
Founder: Alex Tchekmeian
Headquarters: Winter Park, Florida
Year Started: 2016
Total Units: 54
With revenues in the coffee segment amounting to over $495 billion in 2023 according to Statista, competition between chains is constantly brewing.
Tchekmeian says Foxtail is “going in the other direction” compared to larger corporations, which he believes are leaning further into drive-thru service and inexpensive, quick production.
“I feel like there’s a missing hole in the coffee world at this moment,” Tchekmeian explains. “A lot of it has been value-engineered ... and that is the kind of result we see in that fast-food category of coffee. I feel like there is a lot to stand out on.”
Foxtail’s craft beverages are organic and sustainably sourced from farmers around the world. The Farmhouse blend, a best-seller, is a medium roast harvested from Honduras or Mexico. Other blends include Ethiopia Guji, Colombia Decaf, and Mexico Chiapas.
“We want to push the limits of craft coffee, and that means pushing the limits of the quality of coffee we continue to procure,” Tchekmeian says. “We do work directly with the farms and have a team that travels around the world to find the best quality coffee out there.”
The fast-casual coffee concept features an emphasis on retail. Guests can purchase mugs, shirts, and coffee beans to take home. While other brands may shrink their square footage into a smaller space, Tchekmeian encourages in-store shopping as part of the Foxtail experience.
The brand has also partnered with Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream, another Central Florida-based company. Several Foxtail locations have successfully integrated with Kelly’s, with more on the way.
Tchekmeian has already seen a 20-25 percent uptick in revenue in stores that have both coffee and ice cream.
“Foxtail is busiest in the early morning and afternoon, while Kelly’s focuses on the later hours,” Tchekmeian says. “We’ve had a lot of fun with this partnership, and I think it is an example of things to come ... as we look at how we can continue to maximize profitability and bring other things to the community.”
Tchekmeian is always looking for ways to connect directly with customers through events or support local nonprofits. Some collaborative efforts include a roasting class, “Foxtail Markets,” and “Wined Up Wednesday.”
Foxtail opened its 50th location in Naples, Florida, in early May. As the chain continues to spread throughout Florida and Georgia, Tchekmeian says he’s looking for growth that’s “aggressive but responsible.”
He aims to make the top layer of premium quality coffee accessible on a macro scale, filling the gap between mom-and-pops and fast-food chains. Methodical corporate growth helped the brand develop over the years. Foxtail opened more than 22 company-owned shops before franchising. The learning curve helped Tchekmeian strengthen the chain’s support system before expanding to outside operators. He says it would have been easy to “open the floodgates” to franchisees, but he chose to take his time.
“A big piece of our success is aligning ourselves with individuals who share the same vision and goals,” Tchekmeian explains. “It is not a race to a specific number for us. It is more about making the best decisions for continuing to grow ... not just fast growth that happens immediately.”
While most Foxtail locations currently reside in Florida, Tchekmeian has slowly begun to develop in Newnan, Georgia, and surrounding areas.
“When it comes to responsible growth, we decided to open one in Georgia to make sure that the supply chain and efficiencies in the branch can travel up there and be successful,” Tchekmeian says. “We also wanted to make sure we knew how to operate and support a store that’s far away from our headquarters.”
Using knowledge gained from the Georgia expansion, plans are in the works to head westward. Two locations are in development in Nevada, which Tchekmeian hopes will become the key to “hopscotching” throughout North America.
“With these pilot stores, we like to develop relationships with our vendors and supply chain first,” Tchekmeian adds. “We make sure logistics are supported so these spots can be successful ... If we can get Nevada to be operationally seamless, it opens the rest of North America up for us.”
Other immediate target locations include the rest of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Going forward, extensive growth will include a blend of corporate and franchised stores. An expected 300 new locations are slated to be open by 2028.
“We all believe in the idea of taking what we’ve learned about coffee and sharing it with the community,” Tchekmeian says. “As we move into new neighborhoods, we want to push events like the roasting and cooking classes more aggressively. We want to continue to go down this journey of growth and open more locations and serve new guests.”